Enter Min Poh & Collin's Dreamy, Industrial Loft Walk-Up
For many who frequently stay in Airbnbs on their travels, the way up to Min Poh and Collin's place may strike as an all-too-familiar scene.
Case in point: Traversing the winding stairs up to their walk-up apartment; praying that the door you knock on is the right one (so you won't have to explain to some confused neighbour why you’re here); being greeted by the warm hosts, and finally - getting absolutely blown away by the amazing space that lies inside.
Complete with high ceilings, an open-concept layout, exposed beams, pipes and raw cement flooring - it's the type of space you'd imagine hip, refurbished lofts in New York or Berlin would look like.
But thanks to a lucky break - and an unforgettable Airbnb stay - the candid couple behind local fashion label A for Arcade were able to bring the same coveted look to life - with effortless charm. We sat down with the two to find out how they pulled it off, and why they decided to take things slow and steady when designing their home.
Qanvast (Q): What made you guys decide to get this walk-up apartment?
Min Poh (M): We were looking at a couple of places near Paya Lebar (where our office was) before stumbling upon this apartment. It just so happened that the previous owner had only recently renovated the place before intending to sell. I think the moment we saw how it was all done up, how raw it was - we fell in love with it.
Collin (C): The configuration of the home also made a lot of sense to us, which was one of the main deciding factors. We could easily imagine ourselves moving around in the house and already had an idea of how we’d like to work and live in it.
Q: Wow, you must have saved a ton on your renovation!
C: Yes, so much. We didn't have to do much hacking or carpentry, since most of it had been done. For instance, one of the things the previous owner did was to hack away a wall, replacing it with the glass sliding partition you see here. Though initially a study area, it was much more spacious than the other rooms so we decided to convert it into a master bedroom.
MP: The renovation alone, which mainly consisted of doing up the kitchen, a walk in wardrobe and some minor flooring changes, rang up to about $20,000. We spent another $15,000 on furniture and decor items.
Q: What were the must-haves that each of you wanted for this home?
MP: I had to have my walk in wardrobe. And my SMEG fridge.
C: For me, I wanted a huge communal table that could seat many people, and was sturdy enough to last for years.
MP: Which was why he really insisted on buying this table we have here, even with the stain marks and everything! It was a display piece, marked down by 30%, which kind of made up for things cause it was a huge bargain. I guess it does have it's own rugged charm with all these imperfections.
Q: So, did you seek the help of an interior designer for your renovation?
C: We decided to engage a contractor - which happened to be our friend as well - to do up our home. We figured we didn't really need an interior designer, as the home was already in move-in condition, and we only had to do minor works, touch ups and buy furniture.
Q: How long did you take to renovate the place?
C: About 4 to 5 months. Some of the carpentry works took the longest, especially the walk in wardrobe, because the specifications were pretty challenging and it was one contractor. Plus, we'd wanted everything to come in together. But we weren't rushing to move in. Even though we bought the house in October, it wasn't only until March when we shifted over.
Q: Did both of you have a particular style in mind when decorating your space?
MP: We didn't really have a type of style we normally go for. But we were both really influenced by the various Airbnbs we stayed in whilst travelling.
C: In particular, an Airbnb apartment that we rented in Berlin had really stood out to us, and helped us figure out what we wanted our home to be. In short, its decor was clean and nicely done up, but it was also unfussy and comfortable. It made us feel like we could be at ease living in the space. And that was what we wanted to achieve in our home as well. Something simple, well designed, yet equally comfortable and functional.
Q: What were some of the things both of you would look out for when shopping for furniture?
MP: To match the interior of our space - with the cement screed, white walls, exposed elements - we decided to go for a medium wood finish for most of our furniture. If you have noticed, our bed frame, standing mirror, large communal table are all set in the same, uniform shade. Keeping them in a similar tone helped to add a hint of colour without looking overboard in terms of texture.
MP: Also, when we were shopping for furniture, we tried not to look at a potential piece on it's own. Instead, we'd attempt to visualise how it could pair up with the rest of the space before considering to commit to it.
Q: Where do you shop for your furnishings?
MP: We went to Crate and Barrel for the communal dining table and bench, Grafunkt for some of the loose dining chairs. Comfort Design has a lot of chairs at very affordable prices, too. Oh, and I absolutely love Robinsons for home accessories.
Q: Coming from a design-centric background like your fashion label, has it made it easier to design your home?
C: I think it’s easier - because we face fabrics and swatches when designing clothes all the time, too! I think a constant exposure to all kinds of ideas and trends - especially in the fashion industry - has made us more adept at matching colours and has helped us get a better sense of what looks good or what doesn't.
Q: What did your friends and family say when they first stepped into your new home?
MP: My mom calls it a 'factory'. She can't really understand why things look unfinished. And she commented that she wouldn't be so keen to visit much, because it's a walk up, and she'd have to climb the stairs. But I think she secretly wants to! (Laughs)
C: All our friends think that our house looks like an Airbnb listing. Hopefully that means something good - depending on how their experience with Airbnbs are like!
Q: Any last advice for new homeowners?
C: Really embrace the whole experience. Take your time to plan out your space. Don't rush to complete a home and stress yourself over a 'deadline'. Instead, slowly build your decor up and really ensure that you love a piece before incorporating into your home. For months, we were missing key furniture pieces like chairs because we felt that we hadn't found the right one for our space.
MP: I think it’s really important for homeowners to also figure out what personality or identity they’d want to showcase in their home. And lastly, just enjoy the ride! Take your renovation as a bonding session with your family or other half - it's a good opportunity to know more about them, and learn how they tick.
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